Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Noble Traits Of True Servants Of The Merciful

The Noble Traits Of True Servants Of The Merciful

By Yahya Ederer

In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks is due to Allāh, the Lord of al-‘ālameen. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam is His Messenger.

In Hereafter, the people in heaven are rewarded differently based upon how much they value this life as a means to achieve success. Those who disciplined themselves to live this life for the hereafter are those who embraced the test of life with faith and wisdom. We all have goals that we would like to achieve in this life. Attaining the characteristics of the servants of the Merciful is part of reaching our eternal goal of being with our Beloved Creator in heavenly bliss.

Firstly, humility is the first trait of a servant of Allāh: Being humble is best defined in general as being unassuming of one’s own greatness, precedence, or importance among others. The opposite of humility and its opposite is arrogance.

Allāh Almighty says:  “The servants of the Merciful are those who walk upon the Earth easily…”   [Al-Furqan, 25:63]

The consensus of Qur’an commentaries says that this verse is not to be taken literally for two reasons: the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) used to walk in fast strong strides and the verse walk upon the earth easily” is a kināyah (metaphor) for those who are characterized by humility. Therefore, being humble is best defined in general as being unassuming of one’s own greatness, precedence, or importance among others.

Humility as an Islamic concept was probably best defined by Ibn Al-Qayyim (rahimahullah):

“There are two realities which we must fully grasp in order to be truly characterized with the noblest characteristic of humility. First and foremost is to come to truly know Allāh’s perfection, His abundant favors upon us and how we are fully dependent upon Him. Secondly, we have to come to know ourselves, where we come from and our numerous weaknesses and shortcomings.”

In the light of this, we see that there are two ways to increase our humility with  Allāh Almighty and His creation. Firstly, we need to come to know  Allāh  Almighty and be thankful for the fact that everything comes by His blessing. The best way to attain this part of humility is in putting heavy use in the remembrance of doing things in the name of Allāh Almighty and praising and thanking  for everything. The second part of humility is that we should take account of ourselves and always remind ourselves of our weaknesses and shortcomings and that we are just creatures made from dust who will return to dust. Constant repentance and seeking the forgiveness of the Merciful, is a great way to implement this part of humility.

Sadly, some people think that humility is a weak characteristic, but the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “ It increases a person in status if he forgives, and no one ever humbles himself before Allāh but He will raise him in status.” (Muslim). Imam Nawawi (rahimahullah) explains that there are two ways that  will raise our status. The first is that Allāh will cause the hearts of people to love us because of our humility, as Allāh has made it a Sunnah of mankind that we dislike arrogance and admire humility. The second is that  will raise our place in heaven and reward us for our humility.

So let’s look at the humility shown by our beloved Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam)  and his close companions (radiyallāhu’anhum). The companions’ love and respect for the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was undoubtedly more exemplary than the followers of any other king or emperor in history. They were always ready to serve him. Yet when ‘Aishah (radiyallāhu’anha) was asked about how he was at home she replied, “He was in the service of his family…” (Bukhari) The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) used to milk the sheep, sew and patch his own garments, go to the market and buy his own things, sit and eat with his servants, initiate greetings with others, and act as though he was like any other one of the companions, joining them in whatever they were doing.

Abu Bakar As-Siddiq (radiyallāhu’anhu) used to help young orphan girls milk their sheep. When he became the Khalifah, they assumed that his new position of responsibility meant that he would not help them anymore. However, he came weekly and helped milk their sheep throughout his Caliphate.

During the wars with Persia, a messenger from the Persian king came to give a message to `Umar ibn al-Khattab (radiyallāhu’anhu), requesting a visit to the palace of the king. A Muslim responded by saying that they did not have a palace or a king. He told the Persian ambassador that they have a ‘Commander of the Faithful.’ They both went looking for ‘Umar (radiyallāhu’anhu) and they found him sleeping under a tree. Naturally, we can assume the ambassador was amazed as he expected a big palace and a difficult process to see the great Muslim leader.

A man visited `Umar ibn Abdul-Aziz (radiyallāhu’anhu) one day during his Caliphate. While they were sitting there, a lamp went out and `Umar got up and fixed it. His guest then asked him, “Commander of the Faithful, why did you not command me or someone else to get up and fix the lamp?” The noble Caliph responded, “I got up and I was `Umar and I did what I did and I was still ‘Umar and I lost no nobility in doing it. The best people in the sight of Allāh are the humble.”

It is crystal clear that arrogance, on the other hand, is the opposite of being a servant to the Merciful. People are stuck in themselves and get stuck in the “I” rather than the “He,” not realizing that “I” is nothing without Him, the Exalted. They get stuck in the “I” rather than the “we,” meaning no matter what they have done, someone else will do it better. 

Allāh says :“…Indeed, He does not like the arrogant.” [An-Nahl ,16:23]

Arrogance is the basic root of all evil; it was a main factor in the first divergence from Islam. When Iblis declared that he would not obey  and bow down to Adam (‘alayhissalam) because he thought he was better than him. A very serious hadith narrated by Ibn Mas’ud (radiyallāhu’anhu) that should be a heavy deterrent from arrogance and haughtiness is, “Whoever has an atom’s weight of arrogance in their heart will not enter heaven.” [Muslim].

One of the worst manifestations of arrogance among practicing Muslims is “religious arrogance” in which one deems himself as having a monopoly on the truth of Islam and that his or her teachers are more “right” than anyone else’s. This causes them to look down on other Muslims and judge them. You also have Muslims who look down upon other Muslims because of their nationality, race, wealth, status, or gender. Abu Bakar (radiyallāhu’anhu) once said, “Don’t any of you look down upon or despise any Muslim because even the smallest Muslim is big to .”

Secondly, forbearance and composure: Forbearance is a characteristic which is perfectly personified by The Merciful Himself.

It is apparent that human being can be very different when faced with irritating, bothersome, or offensive situations while leading their life. Some are easily upset and lose their composure; others can remain calm, gentle and yielding through the toughest of trials. Most of us are somewhere in between.

The truth is that many people are predisposed to such characteristics and others acquire these traits from the environments they grew up in. That being said, psychological research suggests that one’s self confidence plays a major role in his or her temperament. Those with low self-confidence tend to have a much shorter fuse and hotter temper then those who feel they have nothing to prove. It takes a person of great precedence and spiritual discipline to overlook people’s shortcomings, make excuses for others and keep composure with forbearance.

This brings us to the second trait of the servants of the Merciful. Allāh says:  “…those who walk upon the earth easily and when the ignorant address them harshly, they say words of peace,”  [Al-Furqan, 25:63].

Scholars,says this verse carries two noble characteristics: “walk upon the earth hawnan (easily)” is that they have a calm and mild composure. The next part of the verse, “when ignorant people address them harshly, they respond with words of peace,” refers to the characteristic of forbearance.

The verse tells us that the servants of The Merciful are those who are calm, peaceful and do not react to challenging people or situations with anger or impatience; they are carefull in responding. We all get angry and annoyed; but the issue is how do we react to a stressful situation.

The verse indicates that we are to react to any form of verbal abuse with something which  is better, whether it be good words or a peaceful silence.

This is similar to a theme in the Qur’ān when Allāh Almighty says: “…Repel [evil] by that [deed] which is better; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend.” [Fussilat, 41:34]

This noble characteristic of forbearance is one that the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) perfectly embodied with his wives, children, close friends, neighbors and even enemies from among the disbelievers. The only time that Islam legislates a harsh reaction is when someone is physically attacking you first.

Therefore, the will of Allāh is clearly a blessing in that this part of the series falls at the doors of the blessed month of patience. The month of Ramadhān is a huge lesson in spiritual and physical discipline. It is a time in which we soften our hearts and words through controlling our most basic desires by which we survive. Ramadhan is an excellent opportunity to apply the hadith of the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam): “Indeed knowledge comes through studying and learning, and forbearance comes by disciplining oneself.” (Al-Bukhari).

Apparently, forbearance is a characteristic which is perfectly personified by The Merciful Himself. Allāh Almighty has inspired us with innate knowledge of our purpose in life and reinforced that with many signs as to His existence and bounties upon us. To top all of that off, He sent us prophets with messages and proofs. After all of that, we are ungrateful and persistently disobedient; yet Allāh does not immediately destroy us. Instead He continues to surround us with His bounties and favors and leaves the door wide open for those who would repent.

When we turn to Him and repent, Allāh will accept us and erase all of our past iniquity. We must do everything we can to embody these divine characteristics, as that is why Allāh reveals them to us.

Forbearance is a subdivision of mercy and our Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “Allāh will not be merciful to those who are not merciful with people. (Bukhari)

Of course, the best place to go to see the practical application of these characteristics is the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and His noble companions (radiyallāhu’anhum).

·         In the Battle Of Uhud when the polytheists cracked the Prophet’s (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) jaw and split open his blessed face, the companions asked him to call upon Allāh to damn them. Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam)  responded, “I was not sent to damn people, but as a mercy unto them.” According to another narration he then supplicated, “O Allāh, guide my people for they know not what they do.”
·         There is the famous story of the bedouin who came to the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and yanked on his robe to the extent that it pulled on his neck. The companions were infuriated as the bedouin commanded the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) to give him some of the zakat (charitable tax of 2.5%). The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) simply laughed and commanded the companions to give him what he asked.
·         Through 13 years of the Makkan period of revelation, the Muslims endured being mocked, humiliated, slandered, tortured, sanctioned, starved, boycotted and murdered. Then add to that another eight years of war, plotting and treachery at the hands of the polytheists of Makkah. When the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) finally won the city of Makkah, he came in with a powerful army of 10,000 strong. If he wanted, he could have taken revenge and massacred these criminals. Instead he came to them and said, “I say as my brother Joseph said: ‘No blame will there be upon you today. Allāh will forgive you, and He is the most Merciful of the merciful.’”Then the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) told the people of Makkah, “Go back to your homes for you are all free.”
·         This beautiful trait is usually remembered by giving examples of the Prophet’s (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) companion Al-Ahnaf ibn Qais (radiyallāhu’anhu). It is narrated that one time a man verbally attacked Al-Ahnaf and he didn’t respond and kept walking. So the man walked behind him persisting in his verbal abuse of Al-Ahnaf until they came to the village. Then Al-Ahnaf turned around and asked him, “If you still have something to say then get it all out now, before the people see how you are acting and it hurts your reputation.” In another situation, a man started shouting insults at Al-Ahnaf. He followed him until Al-Ahnaf turned to him and said joyfully, “Hey man, the time for lunch has come upon us. How about you join me?”
·         One night the great, rightly guided Caliph ‘Umar ibn Abdul-Aziz (rahimahullah) went out with one of his guards to walk around the city. They went into the mosque, which was dark, and ‘Umar stumbled over a man. The man quickly arose and asked ‘Umar in a fit of anger, “Are you crazy?” ‘Umar replied, “No.” ‘Umar’s guard was about to beat the man but the Caliph stopped him, saying “Don’t touch him. He just asked me if I was crazy and I said no.” To put this event in perspective, ‘Umar was at this time the ruler of about a third of the civilized world with the power to topple armies. This power and authority did not cause him to lose his character.

Forbearance is a sign of the true strength of a person. It was the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) who taught us “The strong man is not the one who can win a physical fight. The strong person is the one who controls himself when angered.” (Bukhari)

It was said that the worldly reward for one who shows forbearance is that people become his supporters.  There is no doubt that disciplining oneself toward this noble characteristic is one of the most valuable achievements. Our Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “There was not something swallowed more great to Allāh than swallowing one’s anger for the sake of Allāh.” (Al-Targheb).

There are two types of anger: praiseworthy and blameworthy.

Praiseworthy anger is when someone becomes upset or offended for the sake of Allāh, His messenger or His message has been disrespected in some way. Blameworthy anger is when the anger is for some personal issue and it is not for the sake of Allāh. Even though it is praiseworthy to get angry for the sake of Allāh, one must still keep their composure so that it can be characterized by forbearance. Never make a personal attack.

The question is how do we attain these qualities of the true servants of the Merciful and protect ourselves from the terrible disease of rage. According to the Sunnah of the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), we have six easy ways to safeguard ourselves:

1.        Be humble in all our actions and speech, and avoid arrogance.
2.        Always excuses or forgives the others and pardon their mistakes and shortcomings.
3.        Be optimistic and see the good in things instead of focusing on the faults of others.
4.        Sincerely seek refuge with Allāh when angered (read the tawwadhu).
5.        Immediately make wudhu and pray a Sunnah prayer when angered. Remember that water extinguishes fire.
6.        If angry and in a discussion, sit down to make your point. If even then you are furious, then lay down. Rest, slow down and make dzikir.

Allāh has made the acts of controlling one’s anger and pardoning others key characteristics of those who have Allāh-consciousness and piety (taqwa). It is by these characteristics that we are guaranteed Heaven.May Allāh make it easy on us to attain these characteristics!

Thirdly, The Vigil of Qiyam and Sujud (Solah)

The importance of the Solāh is the most important aspect is one’s relationship to Allāh, that is, one’s faith (imān), God-consciousness (taqwa), sincerity (ikhlas) and worship of Allāh (`ibadah). Therefore, if the Solāh are sound and proper, the rest of the deeds will be sound and proper; and if the Solāh are not sound and proper, then the rest of the deeds will not be sound and proper, as the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) stated.

‘Abdullah Ibn Qart (radiyallāhu’anhu) related that the Allāh’s Messenger (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said “The first act that the slave will be accountable for on the Day of Judgement will be Solāh. If it is good, then the rest of his acts will be good. And if it is evil, then the rest of his acts will be evil.” [At-Tabarāni]

Abu Hurayrah (radiyallāhu’anhu) reported that the Allāh’s Messenger (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said: “The first deed for which a person will be brought to account on the Day of Resurrection will be his solāh. If it is good then he will have prospered and succeeded, but if it is bad then he will be doomed and have lost. If anything is lacking from his obligatory solāh, the Lord will say, ‘Look and see whether my slave did any voluntary solāh, and make up the shortfall in his obligatory solāh from that.’ Then all his deeds will be dealt with likewise.” [An-Nasa`ie, 465; At-Tirmidzi, 413 and others; Classified as sahih]

The importance of the Solāh is the most important aspect is one’s relationship to Allāh, that is, one’s faith (imān), God-consciousness (taqwa), sincerity (ikhlas) and worship of Allāh (`ibadah). Therefore, if the Solāh are sound and proper, the rest of the deeds will be sound and proper.

Solah Tahajjud  during the night softens our hearts, helps us remember the glorious Qur’an, and most importantly it brings us closer to Allāh Almighty.
Allāh Almighty  elucidates the noble traits of the true servants of The Merciful, we find that they are characterized by a deep sincerity; they give up their precious sleep time in devotion to their Most Gracious Creator. Solah Tahajjud  during the night softens our hearts, helps us remember the glorious Qur’an, and most importantly it brings us closer to Allāh Almighty.
Allāh Almighty  says: “Those who spend part of the night prostrating and standing in devotion to their Lord.” [Al-Furqan, 25:64]
Allāh Almighty  asks us in another verse: “Is the one who is devoutly obedient during periods of the night, prostrating and standing in prayer, fearing the hereafter and hoping for the mercy of His Lord, (like the one who does not)? Say, ‘Are those who know equal to those who do not know?’ Only they will remember who are people of understanding.”  [Az-Zummar, 39:9]

In fact, many Muslims rarely perform Solah Tahajjud. The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam)  said, “The best prayer after the obligatory prayers is the night prayer.” [Muslim]

We should take this blessed opportunity in Ramadhan to build this closeness with Allāh. Starting with the  Solah Taraweeh  (night prayers in Ramadhan), we get accustomed to praying in the early night. Although that has a great reward and the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “Whoever prays the nights of Ramadhan will have his previous minor sins forgiven” [Bukhari], the real reward and much deeper act of faith and obedience is in praying the last third of the night. The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:  “ Allāh descends (in a way that suits His Sublimity) in the last third of the night. Allāthen says, ‘Who will supplicate me so I can answer him? Who will ask Me so I can give him? Who will seek my forgiveness so I can forgive him? [Bukhari]

No doubt, praying during the night has a huge reward in the Hereafter, but it is also a major deterrent to a sinful lifestyle. It softens our hearts, helps us remember the glorious Qur’an, and most importantly it brings us closer to Allāh. We should all take this opportunity in Ramadhan to get up at least an hour before Fajr to pray. Let’s start by simply praying four rak’at of Solah Tahajjud, and Witr , which may be prayed in any odd number of rak’at. Then, in the last ten nights, let’s make itikaaf (seclusion) in the Mosque. If that’s not possible, then continue with the four rak’at.

Further more, someone might have not memorized much of the Qur’an and they may be concerned that they do not have much to read. In that case you may suffice with al-Fatihah as it is just a Sunnah to read another surah. If you have memorized something, you may read what you know in each rak’ah. For those who can read the Qur’an in Arabic, there is a facilitation in the  practice of the companions (radiyallāhu’anhum) in that you may pray while holding the Qur’an and read directly from it. It has been authenticated that Aishah (radiyallāhu’anha) ordered her servant to lead her in taraweeh while he was reading from the Qur’an. [Bukhari]

After Ramadhan, let’s continue  praying Solah Tahajjud  or  just waking up 15-30 minutes earlier so that we can pray witr. The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) taught us to make witr  the last prayer of the night before Fajr and that we should not pray witr twice in one night. He (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) also said, “The best deeds are those we are consistent with, even if they are small deeds.” [Bukhari]

And Allāh Almighty Knows best.

Related Links:
·         Tips For Growing in Faith

[Source: Suhaib site; Excerpted from, “Becoming The Servants of the Most Merciful” By Yahya Ederer (Abu Majeed), via On Islam Thursday, 24 February 2011]